2 min

High school confidential

Coming of age has never been better

GROWING UP. Edge Of 17's summer of love. Credit: Xtra files

The fusion of those last few high school years, summer jobs and teenage lust have a way of shaping identity and revealing secrets.

That’s certainly the case in David Moreton (director/producer) and Todd Stephens’s (writer/producer) compelling and well crafted flick Edge Of 17. Set to a soundtrack of your favourite ’80s tunes, based on real life experiences of Stephens and shot in his hometown.

The year is 1984 and in Sandusky, Ohio, high school is out for the summer. Seventeen-year-old Eric Hunter (Chris Stafford), soon to be a senior and aspiring musician, spends the last summer of his high school years working in an amusement park cafeteria with his best friend Maggie. They are guided in their dull tasks by the gregarious Angie (Lea Delaria) who also turns out to be the owner of the only local queer bar, The Fruit And Nut.

The boring routine of composing rib dinner plates for irate customers is interrupted by the flirtatious blue-eyed and blond-haired Rod, who casually informs Eric, when asked if he has a girlfriend, that “her” name is Danny. Eric’s interest is peaked, and before you know it, Eric and Rod are spraying canned whipped cream on each other in the supply room of the cafeteria.

Later, after their first date, the exhilarating and delicious embraces of Eric’s first sexual encounter with the older and more experienced Rod are genuinely captured, and a whole new world of possibility arises.

A spate of new haircuts provided by Maggie, new clothes, Bronsky Beat records and regular outings to the Fruit And Nut compliment Eric’s newfound identity. All too soon, the reality of “the life” gets in the way as Eric confronts the difference between casual sex and his own desire for more serious companionship and love. He soon faces the painful realities of coming out; midnight confessions to best friends, initial denials to questioning parents and an eventual disclosure to his mother. A confused sexual encounter with Maggie, whom he loves and adores, leads to a serious rift and Eric seeks solace in the comfort and advice provided by Angie, who has become his guide as he develops his identity.

Eric and Angie laugh together when he confesses that he thought life would be easier after he came out, a theme that is examined throughout the film as being both true and false.

Superbly acted, sensitive and realistic, Edge Of 17 captures some of the realities and indecision of those initial years when one’s own sexuality – not the one prescribed by society – emerges. As Angie belts out a fantastic rendition of “Blue Skies” at the Fruit And Nut, we know that what is apparent for Eric is also true for us: Despite the difficulties of being “different” in society, there is “nothing but blues skies ahead” when we are true to ourselves and confident in our own identities.

Edge Of 17 opens at the Carlton Cinemas (20 Carlton St) on Fri, Jul 2.